Current Event:, busted?

By hmu2 at 9:23 am on February 16, 2009 | 2 Comments

According to a recent article from Business Week, a photo-sharing site,, has crossed the line between maintaining personal privacy and extortion. This site allows users to post incriminating pictures of friends without proof that his or her permission to use the photos has been given. The “busted” friend can remove the photos, but only after paying a fee to become a member of the YoBusted site. According to the article, at least four people found photos on the site that had been taken from their Facebook profiles and posted on YoBusted without their permission and inaccurately tagged with their names (thus wrongly accusing them of participating in the activities depicted in the photos). Facebook has alerted the FBI against this site claiming that posting the pictures was a violation of Facebook’s terms of service and that the site is unlawfully requiring payment for picture removal. YoBusted claims that it provides many services (not just removing pictures) that justify charging a fee to use their site and that in order to maintain the attractiveness of the site, will remove photos under their discretion without charging a fee.

Besides the obvious personal security concerns of having embarrassing photos posted online without the individual’s permission, there are larger issues here: anyone can make a website that can provide almost any service they want. YoBusted is an incorporated company using a legally registered domain to provide a service that allows anyone to be the paparazzi and everyone to be the next big tabloid story. This site is the encarnation of a common public desire: gossip, only people are taking it more personally when it’s their face plastered all over a website instead of some big movie star or politician. Quite frankly, I think this site is teaching users a valuable lesson: don’t put embarrassing photos of yourself on the internet and increase the privacy settings on your social networking sites.

I think another big issue highlighted by this controversy is that individuals are no longer in control of their online reputations. It seems that even a person who has never accessed the internet can’t escape some amount of information about themselves being somewhere online. The underlying question is how can people combat something they can’t even detect? Are internet users (and non-internet users for that matter) really expected to constantly surf the web to ensure no one has posted something about them without their permission?

People will most likely react to this site’s attempt to provide a “valuable” service with concern and fear, which will hopefully encourage them to take down embarrassing photos of themselves and increase their privacy settings online.  In the broader social context, maybe this issue will make people think twice before they do something stupid. I doubt it, but for humanity’s sake, I can at least give them the benefit of the doubt.

Note: is currently “Under Construction”. I’d be interested to know if this is a direct result of Facebook’s accusations and/or other political/social influences.

Filed under: Current Events,Ethics2 Comments »


  • 1
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    Comment by Joshua Barr

    February 20, 2009 @ 4:17 pm

    Wow… Every time I think that the world can’t surprise me something like YoBusted springs into existence.

    Reminds me of the quote from The Restaurant At The End of the Universe: “There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.”

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    Comment by Ryan McElroy

    February 20, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

    This is one of many fundamental privacy issues raised by the internet that has never had an analog before theh digital age. The internet allows instant, mostly-anonymous communications that can have widespread distribution.

    Certainly, something like “” could have been run before the internet — imagine a weekly newspaper with embarrassing photos that would be printed unless the people in the photos paid the newspaper money. This seems silly, but it is essentially the same idea.

    The internet makes this idea not-as-silly because the profit margins can be much thinner, the pictures can be collected from and distributed to a much larger group of people, and, most importantly, the people behind the whole site can be basically anonymous.

    It will be interesting to see how society and law develops to address the changes that internet-age communications bring.

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